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Champions League final: Record-breaker Jack Grealish chases historic treble

Set to line up in a Champions League final, a dream for any footballer, Manchester City's Jack Grealish has enjoyed a stunning rise to the very top of the game.

Becoming the most expensive English player of all time after transferring from boyhood club Aston Villa to Premier League champions Man City for £100m in the summer of 2021, Grealish appeared to struggle to settle into life at the Etihad Stadium in his first season under Pep Guardiola.

Having grown used to being a talismanic figure at the Villans, Grealish was forced to get to grips with being one of a multitude of stars at City, and spent a lot of time in his debut season on the substitutes' bench as the Citizens clinched their second successive Premier League title.

Fast forward a year and the picture is markedly different for both Grealish and City, with the England international emerging as an increasingly influential mainstay in a side who now stand a Champions League final victory over Inter away from completing a remarkable treble of trophies.

We take a deep dive into Grealish's journey from the streets of Solihull to becoming a Champions League record-breaker...

Sam Matterface and Steve Freeth on Jack Grealish

From Solihull to Istanbul

Growing up in the town of Solihull eight miles south-east of Birmingham, Grealish joined his boyhood club of Aston Villa at the age of six.

Graduating through the club's youth system, Grealish would first truly capture the national consciousness during Villa's FA Cup semi-final victory over Liverpool at Wembley in 2015, with the 19-year-old playing a hand in both goals as Tim Sherwood's side came from behind to win 2-1 before losing 4-0 to Arsenal in the final.

Grealish's progress at the club would become stunted by injuries and off-field misdemeanours as a young player, before the technically gifted midfielder reached a level of maturity on and off the pitch to help guide Aston Villa back to the Premier League in 2019 after being relegated three years previous.

Captaining the side during a club-record run of 10 league wins in a row under Dean Smith in the Championship, Villa were promoted to the top flight following a 2-1 play-off final win over Derby County at Wembley.

The charismatic Grealish would take to Premier League life seamlessly in season 2019-20, voted Player of the Season by both his teammates and the club's supporters as Villa narrowly avoided relegation with a 1-1 draw at West Ham on the final day. 

Over the course of this campaign Grealish also broke the record for the most fouls won by a player in a single Premier League season, totalling 167 times.

His impressive form in the top flight would continue the following season, prompting Guardiola's Man City to come calling in August 2021.

It is at this juncture where a glittering new chapter for Grealish was opened, one which has led him to the brink of footballing immortality as he prepares for his first outing in a Champions League final for the Citizens in Istanbul against Inter.

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Champions League Record-breaker

After a difficult first season at City following his big-money move from Villa, Grealish has more than come into his own in his second campaign.

The 27-year-old has become undroppable on City's left flank, with Guardiola placing a lot of faith in Grealish, particularly in important fixtures such as Champions League nights.

Starting all but one of City's Champions League matches en route to the final, Grealish was able to break Frank Lampard's 15-year record record for the most chances created by an English player in the competition in one season with 35 during his side's 4-0 home win over Real Madrid in the second leg of the semi-finals.

A constant thorn in the side of Los Blancos across both legs of the tie, with experienced campaigner Dani Carvajal struggling to contain City's number 10, Grealish's five completed take-ons at the Etihad was more than the entire Real Madrid side combined.

The former Villa man was equally prominent in the first leg of City's semi-final against the 14-time winners of the competition, with his six chances created the highest total of any away player at the Santiago Bernabeu in the Champions League since Brazilian Diego recorded seven for Werder Bremen way back in 2007.

Should Grealish create at least three chances in the final against Inter, he will break the outright record in a single season currently held by Ajax technician Dusan Tadic from the 2018-19 campaign.

Man City

Manchester City won all six of their Champions League matches at the Etihad this season, with Grealish starting in all of them.

Appearing more and more comfortable as a key protagonist in what is a City squad littered with world-class talent, with the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden often forced to settle for a place on the bench in the biggest matches, there is no limit to the heights Grealish could yet reach under the guidance of Guardiola.

The Englishman has managed to foster a great understanding with City's new striking sensation Erling Haaland, a close relationship which appears to extend beyond the confines of the pitch with the pair regularly seen on camera exchanging jokes with one another.

Grealish's ability to drive at defenders before delivering into the box has been a key mode of attack for City this season, and therefore an important part of Haaland's service during his staggering 52-goal season, with the winger contributing a total of 11 assists in all competitions.

Destined to start for City as they seek out a much-craved maiden Champions League victory in Istanbul, Grealish will have the opportunity to create even more chances for Haaland and Co as Inter desperately attempt to spoil their English counterparts' dreams of a stunning treble.

Jack Grealish Champions League final odds:

First Goalscorer - 17/2
Anytime Goalscorer - 10/3
Over 0.5 Assists - 3/1
Player of the Match - 9/1
To be Booked - 5/1

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